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5-a-day: Monsanto's patent; China's resale right plans; and WIPO negotiations

Emma Barraclough

Today's developments include predictions for the SCOTUS ruling in Bowman v Monsanto, how Chinese artists may benefit from copyright reform plans, a Pirate Bay parody, IP progess in the Philippines and WIPO's tricky balancing act in treaty negotiations

SCOTUS’s sceptical judges

Judges at the US Supreme Court heard Bowman v Monsanto yesterday: a patent case over soybeans that could have far-reaching implications for the ability of inventors to protect self-replicating technologies. Those who have read transcripts of the court proceedings suspect the decision is likely to go Monsanto’s way. After all, Chief Justice Roberts’s first question to the parties was “Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?” Blogger Dennis Crouch says he won’t be surprised if the result is 9-0 in Monsanto’s favour.

Take me off your list!

IP Komodo reports that the Philippines has petitioned the US to remove it from the US Trade Representatives’ Special 301 Report of jurisdictions with poor IP protection. The Philippines has been included on the Watch List for a number of years but IPO director-general Ricardo Blancaflor’s petition cites the country’s improvements, including a new copyright bill, a new cybercrime prevention bill, as well as the removal of certain markets from the Notorious Markets list. IP Komodo’s Nick Redfearn, while acknowledging some of the improvements made, is sceptical of some of the touted changes, noting that it is still “agonizingly slow to get a prosecution case to trial” and there is an almost complete lack of IP enforcement by Customs.

Resale rights for Chinese artists?

Modern Chinese art has proved a big draw for collectors over the past 20 years, and now artists look set to be given a legal right to a cut of future sales of their work at auctions. The Art Newspaper looks at one of the lesser discussed provisions of China’s draft amendment to the copyright law. The latest draft reportedly contains a provision providing for artists’ resale rights (droit de suite), similar to those in about 60 other jurisdictions (although the rules are not always applied consistently). Other countries typically set the compensation rate from 1% to 5%. With works by China’s art world superstars such as Yue Minjun changing hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction the change could be lucrative. But while artists may be keen, auction houses say that it could have a chilling effect on the market.

Pirate bay parody

It might have started as a clever piece of marketing by an anti-piracy group but, as has often been the case, Pirate Bay, the Swedish file-sharing website, could have the last laugh. Torrent Freak reports that the people behind the Swedish website have reported Finnish anti-piracy group CIAPC to the Economic Crime unit of the Finnish police for ripping off their website design. The Pirate Bay reportedly cited a similar case where the owner of a parody site was prosecuted recently. “We will not stand by and watch copyright enforcing organizations disrespect copyright,” the group said.

WIPO’s deal makers tackle treaty for the blind

Negotiators are having a busy time in Geneva this week, thrashing out details of a plan to widen access to copyright work by the visually impaired. But not everyone is happy with WIPO’s policy on reporting developments in the talks. The IP organisation is allowing NGOs attending the negotiations to follow a live audio feed of the discussions but has asked them not to report what they hear using social media says Jamie Love of KEI. “The ban specifically singled out ‘twitter, blogs, news reports, and email lists’ and extends to social media in general,” he says. WIPO has a tricky balancing act to perform. It needs to provide negotiators with an environment that allows them to negotiate freely but must also ensure that discussions are transparent enough to protect the final deal from charges of being a back room stitch-up between rich countries. We wish them luck.


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